The point of any kind of digital marketing is ultimately to drive sales and grow the bottom line – but small to medium business to business enterprises need a subtly different digital marketing approach to that taken by business to consumer businesses.
The tools available to both are fundamentally the same, and a good digital marketing strategy for either type of company will involve email marketing, social media, great content and SEO – it’s what you do with these tools which changes. To create a successful B2B digital marketing strategy, you need to understand the following nuances.
For a business selling directly to consumers, sales are really the only thing that matters, and everything is focused directly or indirectly on getting the consumer to make that purchase, and preferably to return to purchase again. In the B2B marketplace, however, the emphasis is more on nurturing leads and business relationships which might potentially turn into sales, eventually. There is less immediacy and more focus on long term interactions and familiarity.
The typical B2C consumer is driven by impulse, to some degree, and by the satisfaction of buying. Consumers can be wooed by creating an emotional response – it doesn’t matter whether the response is laughter, sadness or inspiration, but some kind of emotional connection helps to build sales.
The B2B purchaser, on the other hand, is driven by logic, cost considerations and a host of other corporate restrictions. Being able to make them laugh might get you some bonus points, but what really counts is useful, accurate information to inform the purchasing decision.
The sales cycle in a B2C environment is very short; in a B2B environment, the products are typically more complex and more expensive and the sales process is much longer, potentially involving a lengthy and complicated decision making chain. Understanding this difference is key to creating B2B content which helps to drive those decisions.
The needs of your B2B customer will change as you move higher up the purchasing chain. It’s vital that you provide different levels of detail and different types of content to suit each stage in this chain. If you sell manufacturing equipment, for example, the content needs of the Finance Director signing off on a decision are going to be very different to the needs of the engineer who first raised the problem which your equipment can solve.
Ebooks, white papers, FAQs, informative blog posts and tech specifications are useful types of content if you’re selling to business; you’ll need far fewer of the fun, quirky, memorable content pieces that a B2C company will focus on.
It’s not enough to have fantastic B2B content which will help your purchasers make an educated choice; you need to put that content in front of them, which means understanding where online you can find your customers. Social media channels like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are far less important, or even mostly irrelevant for many B2B businesses. LinkedIn and other professional networks are a much better bet, as are specialist forums and industry specific communities.
Because B2B digital marketing targets a very narrow niche – if you make equipment for the auto industry, you don’t want to waste time and money trying to attract a wider audience than that – it’s essential to narrow down your social media strategy so that you are appearing in the right places and not adopting a vague, scattergun approach.
In many ways, the similarities between B2B and B2C for digital marketing outweigh the differences, and there are crossovers, with some instances of B2B companies successfully using B2C strategies and vice versa. However, the critical difference of the purchasing chain is all too often misunderstood by B2B enterprises, which can lead to a huge amount of wasted effort, money and time. Go where your customers are and deliver to them high quality, useful, informative content, packaged and re-packaged for different stages of the buying process – this is a golden rule for B2B digital marketing which should serve you well.
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